Federal judge scolds police union, declares ‘black lives matter’
Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:
U.S. District Judge James Robart, pointedly reacting to the Seattle police union’s rejection of a tentative contract, said Monday he would not let the powerful labor group hold the city “hostage” by linking wages to constitutional policing.
“To hide behind a collective- bargaining agreement is not going to work,” Robart said during a dramatic court hearing he opened by laying out a path for police-accountability reform and closed with an emotional declaration that “black lives matter.”
Robart, who is presiding over a 2012 consent decree requiring the city to adopt reforms to address Department of Justice allegations of excessive force and biased policing, called for major changes that would directly affect the union’s membership: streamlined appeals of officer discipline and internal investigations conducted by civilians rather than sworn officers.
Lest critics think Robart is some lefty Obama appointee who hates cops, it’s worth noting that he was nominated for the federal bench by George W. Bush in 2004.
The police union has had some turmoil in its leadership of late. In February of last year, new president Ron Smith made a lot of noise when he told the Stranger that the city’s police officers would need to either change with times or work somewhere else. But that sparked a backlash among his membership and calls for him to resign. He then shifted to become a more conventional police union head, spouting familiar lines like accusing President Obama of creating a war on cops. He was recently ousted (or perhaps resigned), though oddly — perhaps appropriately? — it isn’t clear whether he lost his job for working with city leaders to implement reforms, or for a Facebook post in which he appeared to be taking a nasty swipe at racial-justice activists.
In any case, Smith’s replacement told the Seattle Times that . . .